It's been quite a while since I posted a traditional Mangalorean recipe. Today as I sifted through my draft posts I found this recipe for a lovely Mangalorean pudding which in Konkani is called as 'MaNi' (the pronunciation of the 'N' is made with a little twist in the tongue). The main ingredient of this pudding, 'Indache peet' as it is popularly called in the Konkani dialect spoken by Catholics is derived from the trunk of the Caryota Urens tree. Caryota Urens is the botanical name for the fishtail palm. In the olden days, everyone used to have at least one or two trees in their backyard and the flour was a must-have ingredient in every Mangalorean pantry. Some people still follow the tradition and stock it all year round to be quickly cooked into a thin gruel and drunk by anyone having an upset tummy. I have had this concoction for as long as I can remember, especially during my childhood when my mother used to make it and mix some milk, a pinch of salt and a little sugar to taste. The drink was satisfying and delicious. I will post the recipe soon.
During my childhood I only knew about the rice mani which is prepared by soaking and grinding raw rice before it is slow cooked along with coconut milk and jaggery for anything between 45 minutes to 1-1/2 hours depending on the quantity. Blogging got me acquainted with the ragi (finger millet) mani which is made by soaking and grinding finger millet and then placing the paste mixed with water in a bowl, untouched until the water turns clear and the sediment settles at the bottom of the bowl. The paste is then slow cooked till the right, glutinous consistency and texture are achieved after which the mixture is poured into greased plates, cooled and cut into slices before serving. The laborious procedure is a deterrent to making it which is why many people don't make it at home these days and prefer to buy it from home cooks that take up small catering orders.
However, the effort is really worth it because the taste is unmatchable and slow cooked food wins over fast food any day, isn't it? The reason why most of our Mangalorean cooking is laborious is because most of the dishes call for coconut - freshly grated, ground to paste or in the form of its milk that is extracted and added to sweets or savouries. Today's recipe uses it too, making this sweet dish a dairy-free (and vegan if you grease the plate with oil instead of ghee) and gluten-free delicacy that can be enjoyed by all. This dish is almost exinct in Mangalore especially because procuring the main ingredient - 'indache peet' is not very easy in the sense that it is not available at every grocery store. You need to buy it from traditional folks who harvest the starch (sago), clean, dry and sell it or from select stores in Mangalore. Also, the sago flour is costly as the process of extracting flour is tedious and today the trees are fewer as compared to their number in the past.
Fishtail Palm / Caryota Urens - Picture clicked near Bangalore Central Mall, M.G Road Bengaluru
Caryota Urens, commonly known as the fishtail palm has bipinnate leaves, which means that the leaves are divided into leaflets that are again divided the second time. Since the leaves that are shaped like the tail of fish the name stuck around as 'fishtail'. The term 'urens' means 'stinging' in Latin, referring to the fruit of the palm which is a skin irritant. The fruit, shaped like little green pearls growing in clusters look like necklaces strung across the length of the tree. While the fruits are not suitable for eating, the palm has many other uses. While the tree looks nice and pretty and is used for ornamental purposes, the trunk yields starch (sago) that used to be eaten during famine. The starch is believed to have anti-oxidant and anti-diabetic properties. The sap from the inflorescence is fermented into an alcoholic drink (toddy/palm wine) and is also boiled and reduced to a thick consistency to make a syrup (treacle) or sugar (jaggery). The jaggery thus derived is pretty famous in Sri Lanka and is known as kithul jaggery. If you live outside India and need to source the flour or jaggery, Sri Lankan grocery stores are your best bet. From what I have read, the extraction of kithul sap was a closely guarded secret and the treacle thus prepared has a lot of medicinal value. Most Sri Lankans love eating kithul jaggery with yogurt. How yum is that?
Anyway, let's head back to the dish of today which is made from the sago/flour. While a lot of people mistake it for arrowroot, the easiest way to differentiate between the two would be to check the colour and texture of each. Arrowroot is starch obtained from rhizomes of several tropical plants while the palm sago flour is derived from the trunk of the fishtail palm. Arrowroot flour is smooth in texture like fine talc and bright white in colour unlike the fishtail palm sago flour that is dusky in colour and has a texture that is more dense and crumbly. The best substitute for this dish is to use arrowroot but that would make it an arrowroot pudding! Ha!
In other news, my blog turned 8 in April! Yoo hoo! Sometimes it feels like I started blogging just yesterday, sometimes it feels like forever. Nevertheless, it is mine to nurture and yours to enjoy. As always I need to make that customary speech too but I'll keep it short this time. As I step into the 9th year of blogging, I hope to share more recipes to delight your palate and appetite. The abundant love and encouragement I have been receiving from my readers over the years has been a huge, huge morale booster so keep it flowing :-) I love to hear from you and try my best to respond to most emails. Since I am a one (wo) man army it is sometimes difficult to keep up with every email and comment. Sometimes I wish I had an assistant but then my blog has and will always remain to be my passion instead of a business, so you can rest assured that the recipes I post are handpicked from my personal collection and not posted just to keep the ball rolling. Should you have a query, want to give feedback or just like to say hello, do drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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